What is Schema Markup? [And Why You Should Care]
Have you ever seen a rich snippet in your search results and wondered how it got there? This is accomplished with the use of schema markup.
While the concept of using structured markup has been around for a few years now, many people are still in the dark about it and surprisingly few are actually using it. However, it is without a doubt one of the most effective and underutilized tools available for search engine optimization.
What Is Schema?
Schema is a semantic vocabulary of code that was created through the collaborative efforts of Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex. This mutually accepted language allows webmasters to implant schema code within their HTML that will be recognized across all the major search platforms.
Adding schema markup to your site helps search engines understand what is on your site and return a better, more informative result to the user.
Giving Context to Content
A search engine crawls a site and indexes the content simply by reading the code. This is great, except the search engine has no context for what it is reading and therefore can only present results for search queries based on that limited understanding.
Schema.org gives an example of how adding the microdata to your code can help give the search engine a better understanding of the content on the site and, in turn, present not only a more accurate search result but a result that is more vibrant and information-rich.
For example, if you had a site with a page talking about the movie “Avatar,” complete with a link to the trailer, it might be apparent to a user that your page was about the movie — but to a search engine it could be mistaken for a page about a digital profile representation or even the Hindu concept of the manifestation of a deity in bodily form.
Adding the correct microdata to your page’s code would help the search engine understand that your page was indeed talking about a movie. You can go even further and give information around the actors, directors, reviews and other related sub-data that could be potentially useful to searchers.
Here is an example of two search results for the query “burger recipe”:
Which one caught your eye first? I’d be willing to bet that it was the second one. The rich snippet includes a review rating with the 4 out of 5 stars illuminated. This small eye-catching detail was provided thanks to schema markup.
Is Using Schema a ‘Black Hat’ Practice?
While the usefulness of adding schema might seem like a too-good-to-be-true hack, it’s not. Quite the opposite, it’s simply an SEO best practice that when used correctly can provide immense value to the site using it as well as the searcher.
That said, here’s an important rule to follow when using schema to ensure that you are implementing it in a way that will not be viewed as spammy by Google:
- Do not curate fake reviews, content, specifications or information of any kind!
That’s basically it. As long as you only mark up truthful and accurate information on your site you are not just good to go, but encouraged to do so. So get going!
Can I Use Schema to Improve My Rankings?
There have been numerous experiments conducted around schema to study whether it has any definitive effect on search rankings. There is currently no conclusive evidence that schema has a direct impact on rankings. However, the more schema is used on your site, the more search engines can understand and provide rich snippets that offer added value to searchers and that will help your results appear more prominently in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
With prominent positioning and rich snippets that make your results stand out, an increase in click-through rate would not be unusual. Many SEOs believe that higher CTR is a ranking factor for Google and therefore could have a significant positive impact on your rankings.
Also, with voice searches being used more and more it is important to optimize your site’s content to appear in voice search results. Where do voice search results come from, you ask? Google uses rich snippets to provide voice search results, so by marking up your site you are putting yourself in a position to gain visibility everywhere!
How Much Is Too Much?
Increasing the amount of markup on your site can only help search engines gain a better understanding of your content and therefore put your site in front of the right people. It is, however, a generally accepted rule that only content that is visible on the site should be marked up, not any hidden content.
What Properties Can Be Described Using Schema?
Earlier you read the example of the burger recipe with the review ratings included within the snippet. You might be saying to yourself, “My business doesn’t have anything to do with recipes, why should I care?”
As mentioned earlier, schema is an entire vocabulary consisting of a wide variety of items that can be described in detail. Some of the more popular items that schema is used to describe are:
Schema at Vital
At Vital we have some of the best and brightest in SEO. Our team is constantly learning new and inventive ways to optimize client visibility within search engines, and our SEOs have utilized schema in a variety of ways to increase both visibility and CTR for numerous clients.
One such client is CHI Engineering. CHI provides unmatched engineering, procurement and construction services within the natural gas, LNG and LPG industries.
Vital’s team of SEOs implemented schema onto the CHI careers page, allowing Google and other search engines to pull the information and curate a job posting within the SERPs. This use of schema had an immediate effect. Within 24 hours, CHI’s page was ranking and showed a significant increase in CTR.
Here’s a screenshot of CHI’s job listings in the SERPs after Vital implemented schema on their site:
Guide: How Do I Implement Schema Markup on My Site?
Step 1: Go to Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper Tool
Step 2: Use the menu to select the type of data you want to mark up. After that, type in the URL of the page you want to tag, then click “Start Tagging.”
Step 3: The page will load on the left side with the menu on the right. To begin, highlight the data that you want to mark up. Since the Vital piece is an article, we are going to highlight the author of the post.
Once you highlight the item, in this case the author’s name, you just select the “Author” from the menu box.
Step 4: Exhaust your markup options
Use the “My Data Items” list on the right side of the page as a guide. Try to mark up as many of those items that you can. The more the merrier.
Step 5: Create HTML
Once you are done highlighting all desired data items, click the “Create HTML” button in the top right corner.
You will then be taken to a page that shows your page’s HTML with all of the proper schema microdata inserted where needed, based on the items you selected. You can jump straight to your items by looking at the far right side where there are yellow tabs in the scroll bar.
Step 6: Add your new schema to your page
You have a couple of options here, you can download the entirety of the code and copy/paste into your content management system (CMS) or you can take the highlighted snippets of code from the Structured Data Markup Helper and add them to your page’s HTML within your CMS in the proper locations.
Step 7: Test your new code with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
This will tell you if there are any errors within the code so you can fix them immediately.
That’s it! You have successfully implemented basic schema markup on your site!
Now that you have the basics down, continue to research on Schema.org to see how to organize your schema, the many different commonly used schema types, as well the complete hierarchy. Along with additional research, this guide will allow you to unlock the full potential of schema and what it can do for you.
Schema is just one weapon in Vital’s ever-growing arsenal of digital marketing techniques and strategies. If you’d like to learn more, contact us.